Los Angeles isn’t just about movies, it’s also one of the most important cities in the world for music. Whether it’s the breezy sunshine pop of the 60s, the hardcore punk of the 70s, or the glam rock, thrash metal, hip hop or indie which followed, you can hear the beaches, back alleys and bars from downtown all the way to Beverly Hills in the grooves of Los Angeles’ records. Here we scratch the surface to bring you some essential tracks for your visit to the City of Angels.
California Sun, The Rivieras
This version of California Sun was the Rivieras biggest hit, staying in the Billboard charts for 10 weeks. It was covered by the Ramones in 1977, and featured in films such as Oliver Stone’s The Doors and Good Morning, Vietnam.
L.A. Woman, The Doors
The title track from the Doors’ final album, this near-eight minute jam takes us through the Hollywood bungalows, freeways and midnight alley’s of Jim Morrison’s LA. It also repeats the phrase Mr Mojo Risin, an anagram of Jim Morrison.
Theatre is the Life of You, Minutemen
Active from 1980-1985, Minutemen were a much-loved band on the California punk scene. This song is taken from their third studio album, Double Nickels on the Dime, and fuses punk, funk and jazz in typically surreal Minutemen style.
Welcome to the Jungle, Guns N Roses
Hailed as one of the greatest hard rock songs of all time, Welcome to the Jungle is Axl Rose’s battle cry to anyone entering the place where you can find “whatever you may need”. The video starts, famously, with Rose getting off a coach on his arrival in the city.
Straight Outta Compton, N.W.A.
Rapped by L.A. natives Ice Cube, MC Ren and Eazy-E, 1988’s Straight Outta Compton is seen as one of the most important hip hop tracks ever made. The numerous cover versions and parodies attest to its influence.
I Left My Wallet in El Segundo, A Tribe Called Quest
The first single from A Tribe Called Quest’s debut album, I Left My Wallet in El Segundo tells the tale of a road trip from New York to the East coast, exploring the sprawling suburbs of Angeles along the way.
Enter Sandman, Metallica
Formed in the city in 1981, Enter Sandman is from the heavy metal band’s first single from their eponymous fifth album. It propelled Metallica, who have played it live over 1,000 times, to worldwide popularity.
Under the Bridge, Red Hot Chili Peppers
“Sometimes I feel like my only friend, is the city I live in, the City of Angels” croons Anthony Kiedis on this iconic lament on loneliness and despondency. Out of dark times came one of the most legendary (and most attempted) guitar riffs of all time.
California Love, 2Pac featuring Dr Dre
Released as 2Pac’s comeback single in 1995, California Love went to the top of the Billboard Hot 100 and was nominated for a posthumous Grammy Award after the rapper’s death the following year.
The lyrics to Electrolite from R.E.M’s tenth studio album, New Adventures in Hi-Fi, were written by the band’s singer, Michael Stipe, originally from Georgia, about the trips he’d take to people-watch on Mullholland drive.
Drinking in L.A., Bran Van 3000
A big hit in the UK (home to a lot of folks dreaming of palm trees and constant sunshine), this one hit wonder from Canadian collective Bran Van 3000 asks “what the hell am I doing drinking in L.A. at 26?” Having a lot of fun, we’d imagine.
Mansions of Los Feliz, Eels
Nobody sees Los Angeles quite like Eels talisman Mark Oliver Everett, who asks on this track, from 2010’s End Times album, to be left alone with the “secrets that live within the walls of the mansions of Los Feliz." The perfect track for a Sunday afternoon stroll round the ‘burbs.
THE LA RECORD SCENE
Dan Cook moved his record store, Gimme Gimme Records, from New York’s East Village to LA. He tells us what pulled him 4,465km from East to West: “LA is great for records because lots of people live in houses with garages, so there are a lot of records still coming out of storage. People still have those old boxes of records that they still haven’t got rid of. When I had my shop in NYC, I felt like those collections were few and far between. Also, in the last few years, there has been a boom of great little shops popping up that cater to vinyl. As far as seeing bands live, there are an amazing amount of live venues and little theaters, so you aren't always going to the same old places to see shows."